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By JoAnna Ness, Feb 5 2020 07:34PM

Steuben County Community Foundation’s youth philanthropy group, FIST, wrapped up their January 2020 meeting to the sound of cheers from the 5th grade students who were learning about philanthropy. FIST (Forever Improving Steuben County Together) is a group of 8th-12th grade students from Hamilton, Angola, and Fremont schools. They meet monthly to organize service projects and provide grant funding to inspire the youth of Steuben County to give their time, talent, and treasure back to the community.

This year, FIST has focused on a new initiative to teach younger students throughout the county about philanthropy—with grant dollars attached to the learning process. From September through January, FIST taught 5th grade students at the six schools in Fremont, Angola, and Hamilton about nonprofits and talked about ways they could help their community. This was part of a program they call FLIP, which stands for Future Leaders in Philanthropy. FIST members led the younger students through a discussion about local nonprofits, and then provided a $250 grant that the students could direct to a nonprofit of their choice. Students also brainstormed ways they could make a difference without grant money, such as shoveling sidewalks in winter and helping a neighbor take out the trash. In return for their hard work to understand philanthropy, each school’s 5th grade class received a $250 grant to use for field trips, projects, or other needs. In total, FIST was able to share the fundamentals of philanthropy with almost 240 5th grade students in Steuben County.

By JoAnna Ness, Jan 15 2020 09:09PM

Change is coming to Steuben County Community Foundation grant guidelines, with the goal of helping local nonprofits continue to dream big. These changes were motivated by the results of facilitated discussions with the local nonprofit community. The SCCF board looked at national and regional community foundations to review their processes for grantmaking and identify updates that would resonate with the needs of Steuben County nonprofits.

After a year of strategic planning, the SCCF board of directors voted to approve the new guidelines, which will apply to all grantmaking at SCCF as of July 1, 2020. In addition to more detailed guidance on eligibility, a key change in the new guidelines is the addition of a new cycle called Impact Grants, which will offer multi-year support and larger investments in programs that are innovative, collaborative, and sustainable.

To prepare nonprofits for these changes, SCCF’s Spring 2020 Nonprofit Capacity Building series is focused on workshops that will improve their applications. Nonprofits who wish to apply for an Impact Grant must send a representative of their organization to at least two of the five workshops offered by SCCF from February through June. These guidelines will be presented along with special panelist discussions at SCCF’s first workshop of the series on February 12, 2020 from 11:30-1:30 at Club Z in Trine University’s MTI Center. Steuben County nonprofits are required to RSVP and lunch will be available. Additional workshop dates and RSVP links are available at

Grant guidelines can be downloaded on the SCCF website at

By JoAnna Ness, Dec 11 2019 06:39PM

Isabell Deem, an Angola High School senior, has been named as the Steuben County 2020 Lilly Endowment Community Scholar. Deem will receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to an accredited public or private nonprofit college or university in Indiana, along with an annual $900 stipend for books and required equipment.

Lilly scholarships were first awarded in 1998, and over 4,400 scholarships have been awarded statewide, not including 143 that will be awarded during this round.

Deem, daughter of John Deem and Holly Meccia-Deem of Angola, plans to pursue a medical career with hopes to study chemistry or bio-chemistry at Indiana University, Purdue, or Butler University. In addition to playing golf at Angola High School, Deem is the president of FIST, president of Key Club, and serves on the Mayor’s Youth Council, National Honor Society, and Student Council.

A surprise announcement was given to Deem at Angola High School where she was surrounded by her family, friends, and high school administrators, as well as members from the Steuben County Community Foundation.

Isabell shared, “This scholarship grant won’t just stop with me, but it’ll be used to impact all the community members I work with in the future.”

The selection process for the Lilly scholarship is comprised of four different parts evaluated by a volunteer committee. The process is pre-approved by the Independent Colleges of Indiana prior to the applications becoming available. The committee reviewed and scored the 20 applications received (with names and all personal information omitted) and selected six finalists based on academic and extra-curricular achievements in Steuben County. These six students then participated in an impromptu essay, portfolio presentation and formal interview. The scores from these four components were added together to nominate a recipient and two alternates.

The nominated candidates are then recommended to the Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI) selection committee who audits the entire process and selects the scholarship recipient. The process of selection was followed as originally approved.

“Once again, there was an outstanding group of applicants from Steuben County. Our committee of volunteers did a fantastic job with the selection process and we can’t thank them enough for their dedication,” says SCCF Program Officer Jacqui Gentile. “We also would like to congratulate the other five finalists, Kayla Festermaker, Emily Land, Victoria Miller, Chase Soulliere, and Teryn Stanley, who will each receive a Circle of Friends scholarship from the Steuben County Community Foundation.”

ICI is a nonprofit corporation that represents 30 regionally accredited degree granting, nonprofit, private colleges and universities in the state. The scholarships are the result of a statewide Lilly Endowment initiative whose primary purposes are 1) to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; 2) to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and 3) to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state. The Lilly Endowment has provided over $405 million dollars for tuition and book stipends to date. There were 143 scholarships awarded statewide in 2018; the number awarded in each county is based on the number of fulltime residents in each county. Steuben County was offered one award for 2020.

The Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship is one of 50 scholarships available through the Steuben County Community Foundation. Application materials for other 2020 community foundation scholarships are available on the foundation’s website:

By JoAnna Ness, Dec 6 2019 03:08PM

“It started as a thought.” Bill Ramos, Executive Director of the Alano Club of Angola, said the idea for the nonprofit came from a similar club in Detroit. He thought that Steuben County could benefit from a safe meeting place for people in recovery from alcohol and addiction to socialize and talk recovery. Ramos reached out to community members he had met through meetings and asked for their advice and expertise, which helped Alano Club become a tax-exempt nonprofit organization with the ability to provide hope and direction for people. Today, it’s a welcoming place in downtown Angola for those who are in recovery or still struggling, to come in and ask for help from people who have been in their shoes. It’s also a family friendly place – especially for karaoke night on Saturdays!

Since Alano Club opened in 2017, people in the community have learned more about its programs, and Ramos shared that he regularly has people off the street come in asking for help. When that happens, Alano Club acts as an information center, providing resources like meeting lists, social events, and game nights. They host AA and NA meetings, along with Al-Anon and Buddhist meditation based meetings. They work with many other nonprofits to help direct people to the services they need, referring people to TLC House, Northeastern Center, Four County Transitional Living, and more. Even if it’s not Alano Club that provides assistance, they try to send people somewhere that can help.

“You have no idea how you’ll impact a person’s life,” said Ramos. Each day, Alano Club is working to break the stigma surrounding addiction. A big challenge is the support from the community and getting people to see the big picture of the issue, beyond those who personally suffer. The problem is not limited to the individual, but it affects the workforce and community safety. In the future, Alano Club would like to collaborate with other industries, such as companies who have workers who fail drug tests, to offer a more holistic approach to the issue.

If Alano Club didn’t exist, people might still seek out other centers for resources. However, Alano Club helps provide a friendly face and a helping hand so they can be there in the short window of time when a person who wants to recover is reaching out for help. “My favorite part is making a difference and helping others. I wish something like this had existed for me,” said Ramos. When people walk through the doors of the Alano Club, they feel something like “welcome home.”

Check out this 30 second video nonprofit spotlight with Executive Director, Bill Ramos:

By JoAnna Ness, Nov 18 2019 04:00PM

On November 18, 2019, The Angola Fire Department installed the 20th Safe Haven Baby Box located on the northwest corner of the station. The fire station was chosen due to its accessibility and proximity to the Michigan state line. The Safe Haven Law allows people to anonymously surrender their healthy newborn without fear of criminal prosecution.

Safe Haven Baby Box Inc . is a non-profit founded by firefighter/medic Monica Kelsey. Kelsey was abandoned as an infant and is committed to installing more Safe Haven Baby Boxes and raising awareness in communities across America. The Safe Haven Baby Box organization also staffs a 24-hour hotline (1-866-99BABY1) to give women the opportunity to talk to a trained professional as they consider safely surrendering their baby.

“So far in 2019, 7 babies have been surrendered in Indiana safely as a result of calling the Safe Haven Baby Box hotline or using a Safe Haven Baby Box. We know that education and awareness around the Safe Haven Laws and Safe Haven Baby Boxes sav e lives. Women in crisis need more options, in more locations throughout the state of Indiana,” says Monica Kelsey.

The Safe Haven Baby Box in Angola is a true collaborative effort. Funding for the purchase and installation was provided by the Steuben County Community Foundation (SCCF). Wagler Construction and Mike Rathburn Masonry donated services and materials for the installation. Ongoing maintenance and support for the Safe Haven Baby Box will be provided by the Angola Fire Department and the City of Angola.

Randy White, chair of the SCCF board of directors, shared, “Steuben County Community Foundation is proud to support this vital community project that will provide safety and a future for infants surrendered in our county.”

Jennifer Danic, Executive Director of SCCF, shared, “The Foundation was happy to see the fire department and city come together to make this resource available. It’s not every day the board can make a grant that has such broad community impact!”

Nationwide, 60 women and children have come through the Safe Haven Baby Boxes program. Safe Haven Baby Boxes cost roughly $15,000 with installation and are equipped with alarm systems to notify 9-1-1 immediately. Safe Haven Baby Boxes also have heating and cooling features and lock as soon as the baby is placed inside. Indiana is one of five states with updated Safe Haven Laws to include additional surrender options, such as the Safe Haven Baby Box.